MEXICO — A public hearing will be held in Augusta on Jan. 31 on a local lawmaker's proposal to make Maine one of a few states in the country to set aside a day to honor Vietnam veterans.
State Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, has submitted a bill to the State and Local Government Committee of the Legislature to designate March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day.
“My ultimate goal is to eventually see this as a national holiday,” she said.
On a personal level, Briggs advocates for the state to adopt a Vietnam Veterans Day because her brother and many of her relatives and friends served during the Vietnam War. She also realizes that many Vietnam veterans were treated poorly when they returned home.
Mexico resident Dwight Murphy, a Vietnam veteran and former paper mill employee, asked Briggs to submit the bill. Other local veterans have spoken to her about setting aside the day.
Murphy served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1973, including a stint in Vietnam, and six years in the Reserve.
“We had no formal welcome home,” Murphy said. “This day would be for all Vietnam vets, male and female. It would be our own day.”
He learned from a friend that Utah has a Vietnam Veterans Day and he thought Maine should also have one.
He said the names of 347 Maine residents who were killed in action are listed on the Vietnam walls in Augusta and in Washington, D.C. Another 14 are listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.
Briggs said nine states have a Vietnam Veterans Day and many more are considering the designation.
The state Senate lead sponsor of the bill is John Patrick, D-Rumford. At least eight other state representatives and senators, of both political parties, have lent support.
March 29 was chosen as the day to honor Vietnam veterans because it was the date in 1973 that the last 2,500 U.S. ground troops left Vietnam.
Briggs said special days are set aside to honor World War I, World War II and Korean War dates.
Testimony will be taken at 10 a.m. in Room 214 of the Cross Building, which is directly across from the State House.
If possible, those who testify should bring 20 copies of their testimony.
“I would love to see the state Capitol overrun by veterans and supporters on Jan. 31,” Briggs said.